08/22/13 — FOOTBALL TAB -- ECC 2A teams not shying away from competition

View Archive

FOOTBALL TAB -- ECC 2A teams not shying away from competition

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 22, 2013 1:47 PM


Schools in the newly-formed Eastern Carolina 2-A Conference certainly aren't shying away from the competition this season.

Check out this debut:

* Kinston has a date with reigning 3-A champ Havelock.

* South Lenoir tangles with Southwest Onslow, which moved up to 2-A after winning the 1-AA crown a year ago. The Blue Devils will also play perennial independent juggernaut Harrells Christian Academy, which returned to prominence under the late Jack Holley.

* Goldsboro squares off against two eastern regional runners-up in 2012 -- 4-A Scotland County and 2-A Jacksonville Northside.

"We hope that our non-conference (schedule) will help us mature a lot quicker, so once we hit conference (play) we will be able to compete on a high level," Goldsboro head coach Eric Reid said. "Stepping into the ring with a Kinston and Ayden-Grifton (in the ECC) is only going to make you better. At the same time we have to be humble and realize we have to put in extra work coming into this conference if we want to compete and be successful."

The Cougars captured three league championships and prevailed in 19 of 20 outings during their dominant four-year run in the Carolina 1-A Conference. Goldsboro has won four of its 10 league titles in program history since 1972 with Reid on the sidelines.

Ayden-Grifton triumphed against 17 of 20 Carolina opponents from 2009 to 2012, and claimed the league crown in 2011. That team finished state runner-up to Swain County in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-AA playoffs.

The Chargers have non-league contests against three fellow Pitt County schools -- D.H. Conley, North Pitt and Farmville Central. They'll also play Southern Nash, which usually contends for the Big East 3-A title each season.

"We're playing against teams that are going to have more people, are going to have good athletes, so it's (the ECC) going to be competitive from top to bottom," Ayden-Grifton head coach Paul Cornwell said. "Some of the (conference) teams we played in the past were up and down each year based on sheer numbers. We expect it to be more consistent.

"I think the advantage that maybe we've had (with success) is that we really focus on ourselves and not worry about who we are playing. It's about us getting better every week and trying to use the non-conference schedule to get us ready to play conference games, hoping that we're peaking at the right time of the year."

Nearly one month after banging helmets with physical-minded Havelock, Kinston dives into ECC play at county rival North Lenoir. Significant graduation losses have head coach Ryan Gieselman taking a cautious, but optimistic approach to the season.

Allen Wooten has the same outlook at Greene Central.

The Rams' lone victory in 2012 occurred against backyard rival North Lenoir. First-year head Allen Wooten seeks improvement from his players in practice daily and each Friday night during the fall.

North Lenoir head coach and alum Calvin Sutton has to find some new fixtures in La Grange. Graduation and offseason moves decimated the Hawks, who will rely on young faces to mature against a schedule that includes perennial 2-A playoff fixture East Duplin.

South Lenoir has experienced just two winning campaigns since 2005 and hopes new head coach Ken Grantham can change the culture in Deep Run. He has 15 lettermen and eight returning starters to work with before the Blue Devils' opener against Harrells Christian on Aug. 23.